is the rendering in the Auth. Vers. of תִּחמָס, tachmas' (apparently from חָמִס, to act violently), the name of one of the unclean birds mentioned in the Pentateuch (only Le 11:16; De 14:15; Sept. λγαύξ, Vulg. noctua). Bochart (Hieroz. 2:830) has endeavored to prove that the Hebrew word denotes the "male ostrich," the preceding term (בִּתאּיִעֲנָה), bath yaanah (A. V. "owl"), signifying the female of that bird. The etymology of the word points to some bird of prey, though there is great uncertainty as to the particular species indicated. The Sept., Vulg., and perhaps Onkelos, understand some kind of "owl;" most of the Jewish doctors indefinitely render the word "a rapacious bird;" Gesenius (Thesaur. s.v.) and Rosenmüller (Schol. ad Leviticus 11:16) follow Bochart. Bochart's explanation is grounded on an overstrained interpretation of the etymology of the verb chamas, the root of tachmds; he restricts the meaning of the root to the idea of acting "unjustly" or "deceitfully," and thus comes to the conclusion that the "unjust bird" is the male ostrich. But it is not at all probable that Moses should have specified both the male and female ostrich in a list which was no doubt intended to be as comprehensive as possible. SEE OSTRICH. The not unfrequent occurrence of the expression "after their kind" is an argument in favor of this assertion. Michaelis believes some kind of swallow (Hiaundo) is intended: the word used by the Targum of Jonathan is by itto (Pict. Bib. Le 11:16) and by Oedmann (Vermnisch. Samnm. i,p. 3, c. iv) referred to the swallow, though the last-named authority says, "it is uncertain, however, what Jonathan really meant." Buxtorf (Lex. Rabbin.v. חִטפַיתָא) translates the word used by Jonathan, "a name of a rapacious bird, harpyja." It is not easy to see what claim the swallow can have to represent the tachmas, nor is it at all probable that so small a bird should have been noticed in the Levitical law. The rendering of the A.V. rests on no special authority, though from the absurd properties which, from the time of Aristotle, have been ascribed to the night-hawk or goatsucker, and the superstitions connected with this bird, its claim is not entirely destitute of every kind of evidence. As the nighthawk of Europe (Caprimulgus Europceus), or a species very nearly allied to it, is an inhabitant of Syria, there is no reason for absolutely rejecting it in this place, since it belongs to a genus highly connected with superstitions in all countries; and though a voracious bird among moths (Phalene) and other insects that are abroad during darkness, it is absolutely harmless to all other animals, and as wrongfully accused of sucking the udders of goats, as of being an indicator of misfortune and death to those who happen to see it fly past them after evening twilight; yet, besides the name of goatsucker, it is denominated night-raven, as if it were a bulky species, with similar powers of mischief to those which day birds possess., Other provincial names for this bird are moth-hawk, night- jar, churn-owl, fern-owl, etc. The night-hawk is a migratory bird, inferior in size to a thrush, and has very weak talons and bill; but the gape or mouth'is wide; it makes now and then a plaintive cry, and preys on the wing; it flies with the velocity and action of a swallow, the two genera being nearly allied. Like those of most night-birds, the eyes are large and remarkable, and the plumage a mixture of colors and dots, with a prevailing gray effect; it is finely webbed, and entirely noiseless in its passage through the air. Thus the bright eyes, wide mouth, sudden and inaudible flight in the dusk, are the original causes of the superstitious fear these birds have excited; and as there are in southern climates other species of this genus, much larger in size, with peculiarly contrasted colors, strangely disposed feathers on the head, or paddleshaped single plumes, one at each shoulder, projecting in the form of two additional wings, and with plaintive loud voices often uttered in the night, all the species contribute to the general awe they have inspired in every country and in all ages. We see here that it is not the bulk of a species, nor the exact extent of injury it may inflict, that determines the importance attached to the name, but the opinions, true or false, which the public may have held or still entertain concerning it. The night-hawk is abundant in Western Asia; and from its peculiar jarring note, and its strange manners, appearing only in the twilight, and wheeling like the bats round and round a tree, or continually passing and repassing before the eye at short intervals, it is generally viewed with superstitious awe by the uneducated. These movements, however, are prompted by the instinct to capture large insects, which are either attracted round the blossom of the tree, or are playing to and fro in a circumscribed space. As the Sept. and Vulg. are agreed that tachmas denotes some kind of owl, it is probably safer to follow these versions than the modern commentators.

The Greek γλαύξ is used by Aristotle for some common species of owl, in all probability for the Strix fammea (white owl) or the Syrnium stridula (tawny owl); the Veneto-Greek reads νυκτικόραξ, a synonyme of ῶτος, Aristot., i.e. the Otus vulgaris, Flem. (long-eared owl): this is the species which Oedmann (see above) identifies with tachmas. "The name," he says, "indicates a bird which exercises power, but the force of the power is in the Arabic root chamash, 'to tear a face with claws.' Now it is well known in the East that there is a species of owl of which people believe that it glides into chambers by night and tears the flesh off the faces of sleeping children." Hasselquist (Trav. p. 196; Lond. 1766) alludes to this nightly terror, but he calls it the "Oriental owl" (Strix Orientalis), and clearly distinguishes it from the Strix otus, Lin. The Arabs in Egypt call this infant- killing owl massasa, the Syrians bana. It is believed to be identical with the Syn nium stridula, but what foundation there may be for the belief in its child-killing propensities we know not. It is probable that some common species of owl is denoted by tachmas, perhaps the Strix flammea or the Athene meridionalis, which is extremely common in Palestine and Egypt. The goatsucker is thus confounded with owls by the Arabian peasantry, and the name masasas more particularly belongs to it. But that the confusion with the לַילַית, or lilith, is not confined to Arabia and Egypt is sufficiently evident from the Sclavonic names of the bird, being in Russian, lilok, lelek; Polish, lelek; Lithuanian, lehlis; and Hungarian, egeli; all clearly allied to the Shemitic denomination of the owl. SEE NIGHT- MONSTER. If γλαύξ is the true equivalent of tachmas, we can be at no loss for the species; for the Greeks applied that term to an owl with eyes of a gleaming blue color. This is true only of the white or barn owl (Strix fammea), all the other European owls having eyes of a brilliant yellow or fiery orange. The white owl is abundant in Palestine and in the regions surrounding the Levant; it is indeed spread over the whole of Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America; for, though specimens from the remoter regions have been considered distinct, their differences are too slight to build upon them with certainty a specific diversity. SEE OWL.

"Night." topical outline.

Bible concordance for NIGHT HAWK.

Definition of night

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.